Aug 17, 2010

When does transparency start eating its tail?

PRINCETON, N.J. — Transparency seems to be the word of the day in a wide array of policy domains. But is greater transparency always good? Ever since the financial crisis erupted in 2008, there has been a call for “greater transparency” in financial services. ...

Jul 1, 2010

Why is it OK to cheat in professional soccer?

MELBOURNE — Shortly before half-time in the World Cup elimination match between England and Germany on Sunday, English midfielder Frank Lampard had a shot at goal that struck the crossbar and bounced down onto the ground, clearly over the goal line. German goalkeeper Manuel ...

Jun 16, 2010

Synthetic biology's promise outweighs its risks

MELBOURNE — In the 16th century, the alchemist Paracelsus offered a recipe for creating a living being that began with putting sperm into putrefying “venter equinus.” This is usually translated as “horse manure,” but the Latin “venter” means abdomen or uterus. So occultists now ...

Apr 30, 2010

A cloud over airplane safety

PRINCETON, N.J. — When airports across Europe reopened after the closure caused by the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano, it was not because the amount of ash in the atmosphere had dropped, but because the risk that the ash posed to airplane safety had ...

Apr 5, 2010

The unknown promise of Internet freedom

MELBOURNE, Australia — Google has withdrawn from China, arguing that it is no longer willing to design its search engine to block information that the Chinese government does not wish its citizens to have. In liberal democracies around the world, this decision has generally ...

Mar 11, 2010

Free Tilly and other circus animals

MELBOURNE, Australia — Last month, at the Sea World amusement park in Florida, a whale grabbed a trainer, Dawn Brancheau, pulled her under water, and thrashed about with her. By the time rescuers arrived, Brancheau was dead. The death of the trainer is a ...

Feb 23, 2010

Needs of Haiti and the limits of generosity

MELBOURNE, Australia — All over the world, people have responded generously to the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti. In just three days, more than a million Americans had donated $10 by sending text messages from their cell phones. People with very little themselves, like ...

Jan 7, 2010

Keys to keeping your New Year's resolutions

MELBOURNE — Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Perhaps you resolved to get fit, to lose weight, to save more money or to drink less alcohol. Or your resolution may have been more altruistic: to help those in need, or to reduce your ...

Dec 17, 2009

Do humanoid robots deserve to have rights?

PRINCETON/WARSAW — Last month, Gecko Systems announced that it had been running trials of its “fully autonomous personal companion home care robot,” also known as a “carebot,” designed to help elderly or disabled people to live independently. A woman with short-term memory loss broke ...

Nov 18, 2009

Slippery slope of doctor-assisted euthanasia

PRINCETON — Of all the arguments against voluntary euthanasia, the most influential is the “slippery slope”: once we allow doctors to kill patients, we will not be able to limit the killing to those who want to die. There is no evidence for this ...